Sometimes I’m this kind of vain: “You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte” (You’re So Vain by Carly Simon). Although, in my defense, when I check my look in the mirror, it’s usually done less as prideful admiration than straight-up concern about looking like a goober. Either way, it’s driven by vanity.
In more ways, though, I am this kind of vain: “Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? Or, having it, is satisfied?” (from Vanity Fair by William Thackeray)
Vanity as “If only…”.
There’s inner vanity “If only…” (“If only I was __________” – thinner, prettier, less grey, smarter, wittier…) and outward vanity “If only…” (“If only people would ____________” – listen to me, think like me, do as I say…).
Inner vanity example #1: Jim and I were trying on sunglasses at Costco last weekend. I usually wear aviator-style. I put on a pair and asked Jim what he thought. He said he didn’t like aviators.
“I wear them all the time,” I protested. “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“Because you like them and that’s what matters,” he said.
I was indignant. I think aviators look good on me! I’ve been told they look good on me! What else doesn’t he like about me?
Inner vanity example #2: During the same Costco trip, a woman was hawking “healthy” pizzas. I tried a sample and picked up the package to look at the ingredients list. Before I could read it, she said, “Do you follow Weight Watchers points?” I looked at her curiously. Is she calling me fat? “A whole pie is only six points!” she added.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said and set down the package. I walked back to my cart, seething with mind-numbing self-consciousness.
Sensitive much? Absolutely. That’s what happens when my inner vanity “If only…” takes over. I make myself a victim of dissatisfaction when I forget I am OK just the way I am, something I forget quite often.
Outward vanity “If only…” is something I call Soap Box Mind. We not only preach our certainties, but we reject any possibility that someone else’s certainties are also right.
Perhaps no other realm – outside religious or political arenas – are people more sure of the answers than weight loss. The Paleos, the vegans, the vegetarians, the no-carb, the low-carb, the non-fat, the DASHers, the pill pushers, the surgeons, the smoothie makers, the “Eat This Not That’ers, the butter eaters, the don’t eat after 8ers…
We cross the line from genuine to vain when we preach our path as the only path.
I sometimes adopt a bit of leeway as to my position about the how-tos of weight loss and maintenance. I read extensively about what works for other people, and I espouse that which is logically and nutritionally sound, even if it’s outside my way of doing things.
But there are times when outer vanity “If only…” prevents me from thinking outside the box; when someone else’s definition of eating healthy contrasts with mine, and I get all, “But…but…my way is better!” I realize this is an area for self-improvement.
Everyday vanity isn’t as extreme as checking ourselves out in the mirror as we gavotte. It’s more covert. It’s learned and lodged deep inside our psyches. We fuss about our clothes, our hair, our weight. We aren’t satisfied when we have our “desire.” It is vanity that causes us to search for that which we think will make us happy.
How would things be different if you had _____? Would you be happier? More satisfied? My guess is that you can be OK just the way you are, right now.
“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” ― Fred Rogers
AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!